Election Section

California’s Unemployment rises to 6.4 percent in March

AP Business Writer
Saturday April 13, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Driven by declines in manufacturing, construction and real estate jobs, California’s unemployment rate rose slightly in March to 6.4 percent, according to preliminary figures released Friday. 

The figure marked an increase from the revised 6.2 percent in February, the Employment Development Department said. 

A year ago, the state’s jobless rate was 4.8 percent. 

Despite improvement in the overall economy, a mere 200 jobs were added to nonfarm payrolls in March. 

“In the early stages of a recovery, employers, rather than hiring new workers, will increase the hours of their existing staff,” said Tom Lieser, senior economist for the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “It takes a while to produce a reduction in unemployment.” 

Overall, economists said the latest employment numbers did not provide many clues as to the direction of the state’s economy. 

But trends seemed to confirm that the economy is on a slow upswing and on track to recover more aggressively in the second half of the year. 

“Declines in manufacturing employment, which had been falling rather sharply, appear to be subsiding,” said Brad Williams, senior economist at the state Legislative Analysts Office. 

Williams said he could not tell if the loss of manufacturing jobs had reached bottom. 

“That’s the hope here,” he said. “We had been predicting the manufacturing sector would stabilize by the middle of the year.” 

March brought job gains in the services sector, including 12,100 positions in the motion picture industry. Economists said the gains were likely seasonal or part of a surge in production after new contracts were reached with actors and writers last year. 

The largest losses came in the transportation and public utilities sector, which shed a total of 6,900 jobs. Manufacturing lost 2,000 jobs. 

In a year-to-year comparison, government jobs, primarily in education, showed the strongest growth, increasing by 88,100 positions. 

Manufacturing showed the largest decline, shedding a total of 120,300 jobs in the past year.